The Frost Centre is back up for sale as the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) remains embroiled in lawsuits against the union executives that oversaw the purchase in 2021.

The property went back on the market last week and is listed for $3.499 million.

The union purchased the land and 21 buildings from the provincial government for $3.2 million in a deal announced in January three years ago.

The listing description, by Royal LePage Terrequity Brokerage of Thornhill, says the property is being sold “as is, where is.” It adds some buildings have heritage designations, but there is potential to sever some of the property, including the seven existing cottages, to create additional waterfront lots.

It is acknowledged Algonquin Highlands has easements for the trail along St. Nora Lake and the boat launch. Heritage designations are also referenced.

Barrie Martin said he didn’t expect the news, but wasn’t surprised.

“We were very hopeful when OPSEU assumed it… because it would be a more public and communitybased type of initiative. So, it’s very, very, disappointing for those of us who have a lot of history with the Frost Centre. You can’t help but wonder, is there a community solution? But at this point, it’s a tall hill to climb.”

Former Algonquin Highlands mayor Carol Moffatt said “the Frost Centre means a lot to a lot of people and I’m sad that it’s on the market.”

She added protecting the trails easement, and preserving heritage, remain paramount to her.

She said Algonquin Highlands would not sign off on the release of the property by the Government of Ontario until it negotiated the easement for the trail system. “They can list it and say severances are possible but everybody needs to realize the township has an existing easement along the waterfront,” she said.

Property listed at $3.499M

Moffatt added, “it is my recollection there are certain aspects of certain buildings that have heritage designation attached to them.

“The Frost Centre is an incredible provincial icon, and an incredible local icon. There’s a lot of people who have a lot of really strong emotional attachments to this place. The Frost Centre is entrenched in the fabric of Ontario’s forestry history. What can we do to make sure it doesn’t all get plowed under and turned into a number of cottages?

“It feels even more important that we collect and preserve its history because ‘it’ itself may be going away in its current form. What can we do as a community to ensure that its legacy is preserved in places like the Stanhope Museum?”

She wonders what will become of it, as does Algonquin Highlands mayor and County warden Liz Danielsen.

Danielsen said, “it’s disappointing to see that OPSEU’s original plans are being abandoned, as they fit nicely into our hopes for the centre going forward.

“It will be interesting to see the level of interest there may, or may not, be in the property given the heritage designations that will make future development challenging. There are still lots of folks who I’m sure had hoped for reopening of the centre with some environmental aspect attached to it; however, the odds of that happening seem to be diminishing.”

50th anniversary reunion now in doubt

Martin – who’s been planning a 50th anniversary reunion for the centre – said he is now rethinking those plans.

While he has the support of Algonquin Highlands, he said OPSEU and the MNR have not gotten behind his idea.

He said he was never going to hold the reunion on site. However, he was envisaging guided hikes of the trail system and was hoping OPSEU would do a site tour.

Martin said there’s been “lots of interest” from people who used to work there, former MNR staff, educators and students.

“I’m confident there’d be good attendance.”

He added they had talked about using the Dorset Recreation Centre, Stanhope Firefighters Hall, and maybe a local resort for the main events.

Danielsen said she was sad to see the reunion may now be “scuppered as far as anything taking place at the centre.”

The Frost Centre story to date:

• In 1921, a ranger station was established on the west shore of St. Nora Lake by the Department of Lands and Forests.

• In 1944, the province and the University of Toronto Faculty of Forestry entered into a partnership to educate government personnel and university students.

• In 1974, Premier Bill Davis announced that the facility would be developed as a demonstration area in resources management, education and recreation and would be called The Leslie M. Frost Natural Resources Centre.

• On July 6, 2004, the Liberals announced they were closing the centre in one week. On July 13, 2004, the centre closed. A massive public protest and rally ensued. Proponents got the government to lease, not sell, the property. The Friends of The Frost Centre is launched.

• In 2007, the Frost Centre Institute was established, but closed in 2010.

• The Ontario government of the day put the property up for sale but was unsuccessful in selling it.

• On Oct. 29, 2020, the property was again put up for sale.

• On Jan. 8, 2021, OPSEU announced it had purchased the historic site for $3.2 million. A contractor was hired to begin work on the site, claiming to have done $5 million worth of remediation.

• In February 2023, the union sued three of its former executives and told The Highlander, it was now considering options for the Frost Centre. • In February 2024, OPSEU puts the property up for sale.